Rex Grossman celebrated what he thought was his first touchdown pass by leapfrogging receiver Anthony Armstrong. Oops. Not quite. Turns out Armstrong was down at the 1.
When Grossman later connected with Armstrong for a touchdown that counted, the quarterback made a giddy backward trot toward the sideline, then turned around and kept running for another 20 yards or more along the Washington Redskins bench.
"Some situations are more emotional than others," Grossman said. "I just react to the moment. I was happy."
There was more Good Rex than Bad Rex in Grossman's first Week 1 start since 2007. The quarterback so maligned back then in Chicago completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards Sunday with two touchdowns, no interceptions and one lost fumble — mostly avoiding the type of negative play that has so often defined his career — as the Redskins opened the season with a 28-14 win over the New York Giants.
"I know it means so much to Rex," said tight end Chris Cooley, who had a Saturday dinner with Grossman during which both expressed their opening day nerves. "He wants to be an outstanding quarterback. ... He deserved to play so well today. I'm so happy for him."
Grossman's performance, at least for a week, justifies coach Mike Shanahan's choice in a quarterback competition against John Beck that lasted the entire preseason. After an 0 for 4 start, Grossman started spreading the ball around against a short-handed Giants defense. Fred Davis had a career-high 105 yards on five catches.
A stadium of burgundy and gold became red, white and blue — in color and in spirit — during pregame ceremonies for the opener featuring the cities hit by the terrorists attacks 10 years ago. Chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" greeted former Secretary of State Colin Powell as he walked onto the field to perform the coin toss, and the fans — most holding miniature American flags — chanted again after a national anthem during which players from both teams helped hold an enormous version of the Stars and Stripes that covered the entire field.
"Any typical kickoff weekend, your emotions are high," Grossman said. "Being it's Sept. 11, 10th anniversary, Colin Powell's in the locker room giving you the pregame speech, and then coming out and the fans are chanting 'U-S-A.' I was overwhelmed. It was a fun day. It's a day I'll never forget."
The Redskins fans kept cheering as their team ended a six-game losing streak against the Giants, beating their NFC East nemesis at home for the first time since 2005. The score was tied at 14 at halftime, but Washington first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan swung the momentum early in the third quarter when he batted Eli Manning's pass into the air, caught it, returned it 9 yards and found himself jumping up and down over a go-ahead touchdown in his NFL debut.
Manning completed 18 of 32 passes for 268 yards and was sacked four times by a Redskins defense that ranked 31st in the league last year but has been retooled around former Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield. New York generated only 102 yards in the second half.
"Offensively, we didn't do a thing," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin, throwing his hands up.
Grossman's solid day came against a Giants defense that can't seem to go more than a few days without losing a player. Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck was inactive with a lingering neck injury, adding to a lengthy list that already included Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umemyiora (knee), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot), linebacker Jonathan Goff (knee) plus several others from training camp. Sixth-round pick Greg Jones started at middle linebacker.
"You seen who was out there," said New York running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who had a 6-yard touchdown run in the first half. "We don't have our whole team. In the end, it didn't matter. They played better than us. They beat us."
Grossman was far from perfect. There were a couple of near-interceptions, and his fumble on a sack near midfield with the score 21-14 gave the Giants an opening to tie the game. But New York's drive stalled, and Washington's Brian Orakpo blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt with 10:57 remaining.
Grossman then took the Redskins 70 yards, capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass to former University of Florida teammate Jabar Gaffney that provided a two-touchdown cushion with 5:04 to play. This time, Grossman simply jogged to the sideline, as if to say, "Been there, done that."
"Feeling like I was in Florida again," Grossman said.
Notes: Manning made his 111th consecutive start, taking over top spot among active QBs from brother Peyton Manning, whose run of 227 for Indianapolis came to end because of a neck injury. ... Cooley (three catches) moved past Jerry Smith as the Redskins' all-time leader in catches by a tight end. Cooley now has 423. ... Armstrong has three of his four career TDs in three games against the Giants.